Both zinc and copper are essential minerals that are required for various cellular functions. Although these metals are essential, they can be toxic at excess amounts, especially in certain genetic disorders. Zinc and copper homeostasis results from a coordinated regulation by different proteins involved in uptake, excretion and intracellular storage/trafficking of these metals. Apart from zinc transporters (ZnT) families and Cu-ATPase, metallothionein is an important storage protein for zinc and copper. Metallothioneins are intracellular polypeptides with a remarkable ability to bind metallic ions. These proteins bind both essential metals indispensable for the organism and also toxic metals (e.g. cadmium or lead). Metallothioneins play a critical role to maintain zinc and copper homeostasis. In this review, we summarize the toxicity of zinc and copper and the potential treatment for zinc or copper toxicity by zinc- or copper-specific chelators as well as strategy to upregulate metallothionein.
Keywords: zinc, copper, metallothionein, zinc chelator, copper chelator, oxidative damage
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